DHAKA: A smartly dressed woman wearing clothes in bright and beautiful colors fills the screen as Iqra Taznin logs on to Facebook for an interactive storytelling session.
For 30 minutes every Sunday and Tuesday, Taznin, a grade 7 student, forgets the fact that she hasn’t been to school for days, or that Bangladesh is under lockdown, to deal with the global coronavirus outbreak.
“It’s a very positive initiative which helps the children learn about many things even while they are confined at home in these days of quarantine,” Noor-e-Tazmin Joya, Taznin’s mother, told Arab News on Monday.
She reasons that the initiative, launched by HerStory Foundation (HSF), a Bangladeshi nonprofit organization, also educates the youths about iconic women from the country, by sharing their stories of trial and triumph.
“My daughter finds the stories very interesting as it’s all about the legendary women of this country. She also dreams of being a trendsetter someday like many of these women,” she added.
HSF began its initiative in 2016 by building an archive of stories about iconic Bangladeshi women and their role in the country’s history.
The result was “The Adventures of Super Girls” illustrated books which contain the biographies of 41 inspirational women, and which are available in both Bengali and English in bookstores across the country.
Some of the stories narrated during the Facebook live session, which was launched on March 22, include one about acclaimed immunologist Dr. Firdausi Qadri who talks about the spread of viral diseases and the individuals that help fight them.
“On March 29, we read the story of Novera Ahmed, the sculptor and co-designer of one of Bangladesh’s most important monuments, the Shaheed Minar, because it was her 90th birthday,” Zareen Mahmud Hosein, executive director of HSF, told Arab News.
Since being released four years ago, the books have gained immense popularity, so much so that, today, they are used by parents and educators to discuss the history of the region, Hosein said.
“The stories are short and contain a moral lesson that children can incorporate into their lives,” she added. Sahrin Ahmed, a mother of an eight-year-old boy, agrees.
“Since the sessions are live and interactive, they provide an opportunity for my son to ask any questions and he receives an instant reply,” Ahmed told Arab News.
HSF launched its first reading session in September 2019, partnering with Dhaka University. Under the one-year program, it trained 17 people to read the stories out loud to students from different schools.
Today, the best of the lot read aloud the same stories to a broader audience online. It helps to make the most of the lockdown, Hosein said.
“Since the dramatic changes of the past few weeks, we have been working to adapt to new realities. Now, more than ever, we need stories of encouragement,” she added.
Children and parents from anywhere in the world can join the live storytelling session, which is free of cost, by logging onto HSF’s Facebook page.
It is essential to keep the conversation going, Hosein said. “We might be isolated, but we are not alone. We will continue to share stories of courage and resilience. So at 3 p.m. every Sunday and Tuesday, we read a story and start a conversation,” she added.